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Singapore’s Yale-NUS deploys hybrid cloud

Singapore college uses a hybrid cloud infrastructure to increase flexibility and reduce costs across its operation

Yale-NUS College has created a hybrid cloud to give researchers, students and administrators access to automated, self-service processes for server requests to enable faster IT deployment.

Yale-NUS is Singapore's first liberal arts college, and is a collaboration between Yale University and the National University of Singapore (NUS).

With a limited number of IT staff, the college’s IT infrastructure and services team faced the challenge of supporting the growing number of students, researchers and staff.

It decided on using a mix of external cloud providers to get access to highly elastic public cloud services to deliver large amounts of capacity at a low cost.

The college also built a private cloud for the data that needed to stay on-premise for legal and latency issues, with interconnectivity to public cloud services.

“We have to keep some data on the premises, and the challenge for us was to build a private cloud that provided hybrid scalability and low latency to support our thriving research community,” said Darwin Gosal, senior manager of IT infrastructure and services at Yale-NUS College.

The college needed flexibility that would allow quick scalability for compute-heavy scientific research or virtual environments for teaching and administrative purposes.

Yale-NUS College also needed a high degree of automation and long-term stability to minimise downtime.

The IT leadership spoke to many cloud suppliers and found that most offered proprietary systems, which went against Gosal’s belief in open platforms. “I look at open source and Red Hat OpenStack and I see a mature cloud platform that’s more cost-effective. I want to avoid vendor lock-in where possible,” he said.

“We needed to be able to acquire advance capability without heavy capital expenditure, and Red Hat Cloud Infrastructure on Dell could easily integrate public infrastructure into our own. Due to the fundamental design principle of leveraging powerful hardware and open source software to establish our datacentre, we are seeing great interest in the possible replication of our architecture in other universities,” added Gosal.

To address the various requirements, Yale-NUS College created a software-defined datacentre and hybrid cloud based on a co-engineered Red Hat and Dell OpenStack cloud, running on Dell PowerEdge R720 and R720XD servers. The college also deployed Red Hat Enterprise Linux across its infrastructure, which gave them consistent security, control and management across the virtual machines, and the private and public cloud.

Read more about enterprise IT in Asean region

Instead of the traditional approach taken by most universities where scientific research is separated from other requirements, the Yale-NUS team created a cloud environment that would enable them to serve all of their customers through the same computing resources.

Since its shift to a hybrid cloud system, Yale-NUS has reduced the complexity of its datacentres, and nine engineers are needed to manage the IT infrastructure, based on their knowledge of Linux.

The cloud implementation has enabled Yale-NUS to reduce application deployment time by 80% and brought greater agility to its IT operations. It can now quickly add or remove capacity for computing, storage and networking. The hybrid platform also gives the college the ability to run some workloads in-memory while moving others between virtual and physical servers.

Previously it took Yale-NUS days to install new server hardware, now it only takes one or two hours. Yale-NUS also cut capital requirements with OpenStack, reducing the need for specialised hardware and computer labs, as students can now access the system through their own laptops.

“I don’t need multiple administrators to run our Dell Red Hat Enterprise Linux OpenStack Platform. I just need one person with strong Linux expertise. Today we are future-ready, with an easy-to-manage cloud solution delivering compute performance where and when needed through software to drive human understanding,” said Gosal.

Network infrastructure limitations

Hybrid cloud systems like what the Yale-NUS College has implemented require sufficient network bandwidth and security to be successful, said Santhosh Rao, principal research analyst at Gartner.

As such, the network infrastructure in most regions within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), except for mature countries such as Singapore, can be a limiting factor for organisations to deploy hybrid cloud for use cases such as application bursting, archiving and disaster recovery.

Rao added that hybrid cloud systems enable the use of alterative consumption models for some of the workloads in an IT environment. Within the region, the industries more likely to adopt such systems today are in the retail, education and manufacturing verticals.

“Common use cases include application bursting to meet temporary requirements for additional resources, using the cloud for testing and development, for disaster recovery and archiving use cases,” said Rao.

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